Skip to main content


CAH3034 : 'Like ants or frogs around the pond': Mobility and Identity in the Greek Mediterranean

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Joseph Skinner
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


This module explores the relationship between an emerging sense of ‘Greekness’ and a variety of factors including widespread mobility (the so-called ‘men in boats’ — which must in reality have included women/children at least some of the time), consumption, and contact with 'foreign' peoples — whether as a result of trade, mercenary service overseas, violent seizure of territory or enslavement. We will be equally preoccupied, however, with tracing the way the complex and cross-cutting issues of identity, race and culture have shaped the way intercultural contact and exchange are conceptualised (e.g. in ancient stories narrating the return of heroes who fought at Troy or the migration of various prehistoric populations or modern discussion surrounding orientalizing, Hellenization, and the Barbarian stereotype). By tackling such questions head-on you will gain an enhanced and up-to-date understanding of not only the way the Greeks conceptualised their interactions with both their neighbours and each other, encapsulated in Socrates’ purported statement likening them (all) to ants or frogs around a pond, but also the way in which the discipline is responding to current trends and preoccupations (e.g. decolonising, attempts to appropriate or ‘whiten’ antiquity, or a heightened sensitivity to issues of social justice and race).

Outline Of Syllabus

This module ranges far beyond Athens to encompass locations as far flung as Egypt, the steppe regions north of the Black Sea, Magna Graecia (Southern Italy and Sicily), and Spain. Lecture and seminar topics may include both factors that played a role in fostering a sense of common Greek identity (overseas settlement, panhellenic sanctuaries, and the widespread circulation of Greek silver coinage) and the interpretative shortcomings of placing the Greeks on a pedestal as exemplified by debate surrounding orientalizing or the 'Hellenization' of non-Greek populations. Other topics may include relations between Greek settlers and local (non-Greek) populations; consumption and self-fashioning; how the Greeks thought about migration, mobility and race; the origins and significance of the Barbarian stereotype; the relative strengths of theoretical frameworks currently employed in the study of Greek identity, history and culture (network theory, cultural hybridity and ethnicity) and the way in which ethnographic knowledge regarding both foreign or ‘barbarian‘ peoples and fellow Greeks helped define what it meant to be ‘Greek’ in the first place.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture211:0021:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion751:0075:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading751:0075:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching81:008:00Class discussions/close reading of set texts
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork22:004:00Museum Visit
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study171:0017:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures will introduce you to key historical topics and approaches. Lectures are not intended to provide you with answers. Instead, they will provide you with the knowledge and skills that will enable you to negotiate these complex and fascinating topics successfully and arrive at your own opinion! Throughout the module you will be encouraged (and supported) to adopt a critical standpoint in relation to both modern scholarship and key evidence e.g. vase painting, a passage from Herodotus or early Greek coinage. Your listening, reading and note-taking skills will underpin and thus play a key role in this process. The seminar discussions are an opportunity for you to develop your understanding dynamically in collaboration with fellow students as well as gaining clarification of any points that you do not understand. By participating actively in seminars you stand to develop your critical and analytical skills, your oral communication skills and your ability to work collaboratively as part of a team. You will explore set topics in detail, building on sources and modern scholarship that you have read, whether via directed readings or independent study, participate in small group and class-wide discussions, and deliver a formal presentation that demonstrates your mastery of a self-chosen topic. Four hours of the course will be spent either in the Great North Museum or in object-handling sessions (or an online equivalent, should COVID measures be reintroduced) in order to allow you to examine a variety of material and iconographic evidence first-hand whether this relates to ancient ideas about race, Greek coins or orientalizing.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Presentation151M2010 minutes plus 5 minutes for questions. Will employ powerpoint (or equivalent) and a handout.
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1A80Portfolio consisting of two essays and a gobbet exercise, 2500 words.
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise1MA draft plan/handout for the oral presentation (800 words max. excluding bibliography/quoted material).
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The seminar workshops assess knowledge and understanding of core themes, the ability to compare and contrast source materials, and the ability to expound and criticize a textual extract lucidly and succinctly. The students' oral communication and presentation skills will be developed by their delivering a formal presentation which will be summatively assessed by the seminar leader. This will help students to develop transferable skills such as using presentation software to a professional standard and expressing complex ideas to a non-specialist audience in a clear and engaging manner. Formal training will be provided in the form of a skills session in week one and feedback will be offered on the draft handout/plan prior to the 'live' event (the formative exercise).

The Portfolio exercise tests the students’ ability to think and analyse a problem quickly, to select from and to apply both the general knowledge of aspects of the subject to new questions, problem-solving skills, adaptability, the ability to work unaided and to write clearly and concisely. The level and extent of the students' understanding of core topics (i.e. the relationship between an emerging sense of ‘Greekness’ and factors including widespread mobility, consumption of ‘luxury’ products, and contact/interaction with 'foreign' peoples) will be tested via the set question. The remaining set essay (one to be chosen from a pre-set list) and gobbet questions will test different aspects of the student's knowledge of the course overall.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 2 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will take the form of an alternative assessment, as outlined in the formats below:

Modules assessed by Coursework and Exam:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 2 non-EU study abroad students will be one essay in addition to the other coursework assessment (the length of the essay should be adjusted in order to comply with the assessment tariff); to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Exam only:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 2,000 word written exercises; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Coursework only:
All semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be expected to complete the standard assessment for the module; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 2 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances.

Reading Lists